Race Weekend Central

Shakedown Session: Be Careful What You Wish For

Depending on how one feels about the No. 48 Lowe’s team, the last five years have been highly irritating or an absolute thrill watching Jimmie Johnson dominate the Sprint Cup landscape. For the last five years, the very vocal anti-Jimmie contingent has long since been clamoring for new blood to enter the championship fray. Well NASCAR fans, be careful what one wishes for because now… it’s likely going to happen.

Going into Phoenix this weekend, it’s all but a given that either Carl Edwards or Tony Stewart will be hoisting the championship trophy at Homestead in ten short days. Now that fans have got what they wanted, the real question is will they be content and happy with this or will fans complain bitterly about it anyway? Truth be told, fans should be grateful for the exciting season that 2011 has been. Oh sure, there were a great deal of fuel mileage races and controversy along the way, but looking at the fact that Carl Edwards has consistently put together a championship-caliber campaign and also the realization that Tony Stewart has gone from not wanting to be in the Chase to being within a scant three points of Carl Edwards with only two races to go in the 2011 campaign, how can NASCAR fans not enjoy this type of drama?

In one corner, there is Carl Edwards, living proof of the old saying “always a bridesmaid, but never a bride,” having been overshadowed over the last half-decade with the dominance of Jimmie Johnson. Consistency had been an issue for the Columbia, Missouri native in years past where his team would fall apart late in the season, but this year, that reliability has put Edwards in the catbird seat at Phoenix. However, bit by bit, piece by piece, Tony Stewart has put together a magnificent Chase and now is in a good position to snatch victory away from Edwards like Eric Reid snatched victory for LSU from the jaws of defeat on his crucial interception this past Saturday night against Alabama.

On the other side of the ledger is Tony Stewart. The Columbus, Indiana native is the only driver to date that has won a Chase and a championship in the old points system and is seeking his third title in a most improbable fashion. After more or less limping into the Chase this year, the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala driver has put together one heck of a stretch run, winning four out of eight Chase races this year. Not bad for a guy who this summer felt he was wasting a Chase spot, eh? Basically, Stewart has become this year’s version of Jimmie Johnson, performing so-so in the first 26 races, yet turning up the heat in the last ten events of the season.

Regardless of which driver hoists the championship trophy at Homestead in a week and a half, it’s definitely been a wild and exciting Chase. But the real question posed is for NASCAR fans: Can they be truly happy about a great Chase or, as some fans are want to do, will they nit-pick the Chase and find another way to complain?

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